Selling Your Cottage
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Perhaps you're looking to upgrade to another cottage; perhaps the kids have grown and you're looking for a change of scenery; or perhaps it's just time to move on. Whatever the case, when you're ready to sell your cottage, there are basic steps to follow – and we're here to help. Under the following headings, you'll find some important guidelines to consider:

Choosing a Realtor

Choosing a real estate professional to list your property is an important decision. We take the responsibility seriously. Take the time to meet with us in person; we look forward to the opportunity to discuss your property with you.

We are a husband-and-wife team with a proven track record of successfully listing and selling cottages and homes throughout the Haliburton Area. We also bring over 20 years of experience in broadcast production and management, giving us a strong background in writing, graphic and Web design, photography, and promotion.

Make sure your real estate professional understands the importance of both traditional and Web marketing. In addition to the MLS website, we feature our properties here on our own extremely popular exclusive site, as well as Century 21's national site, and

Of course, we do print advertising as well, which reaches thousands of Haliburton cottagers and residents. We also feature our properties in the display galleries in our Century 21 office, located on the main street in the heart of the the charming village of Haliburton, as well as at our Century 21 branch offices in Minden, Kennisis Lake, and Carnarvon.

Each year, our brokerage has a booth at the annual spring Cottage Life show, where we meet with clients and customers – past, present and future – and promote our listings at our booth. The Show is the traditional kick-off to the busiest part of the Haliburton cottage real estate season, so it's extremely important to have your property represented there.

Once you've chosen a real estate professional, it's time to move on to the next step: pricing.

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Pricing accurately

One of the most important aspects of marketing your cottage property is making sure it is priced accurately. Your Realtor should meet with you to review sales history, discuss current market trends and other properties that are currently on the market.

As we move from a seller's market to a buyer's market (view our sales stats page, to see trends in our marketplace), pricing becomes more crucial than ever. When buyers have more properties to choose from, yours must stand out from the others, and offer good value.

It is important for sellers to understand that overpricing a property can be a costly mistake. Properties that are overpriced often sit on the market for long periods of time, and buyers may think there is something wrong with the property, when in fact the real problem is the price.

Furthermore, many sellers make the mistake of assuming that buyers will simply make so-called "low-ball" offers on a property that is priced too high. However this is rarely the case. For evidence of this, go to our sales stats page and look at the historical ratios of listing-to-sale prices. You'll see that for over a decade, cottage list-to-sale ratios have averaged between 94% and 96% in Haliburton. Buyers don't want to insult a seller or waste the seller's time; if buyers feel a property is priced far too high, they will simply move on.

Pricing is part art, part science -- and is always at least partly subjective, especially when it comes to cottages. The bottom line is that in the current market, your price needs to be realistic, and your cottage needs to offer excellent value for money, compared to the competition.

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Getting the cottage ready

So, now that you've chosen a Realtor, and determined your position in the marketplace, it's time to get the cottage ship-shape for the market! Remember, you want your property to stand out from the competition. Fortunately there are some simple and inexpensive things you can do to get your cottage ready and make it look its best:

  • De-Clutter, Part One. This is probably the simplest and most overlooked rule of preparing a cottage for market. It is part of the great Canadian cottaging tradition that all the stuff that people don't want – or have room for – ends up at the cottage: extra furniture, books, toys, games, musty area rugs, broken stereos, knick-knacks, torn and frayed maps. A few personal items, carefully chosen, can make a cottage look loved and lived-in. Too many, and the cottage looks like a garage sale -- which is one way you can get rid of some of these things. Remember that one person's treasured souvenir is another person's junk, so when in doubt, clean it out.

  • De-Clutter, Part Two: The Great Outdoors. A tidy stack of firewood and a nice matching patio set can be inviting. But for heaven's sake, get rid of old rusty barbecues, disused TV antennas, metal drums, abandoned toys, broken chairs and old tires. Make sure to clean out underneath the cottage, where these items tend to accumulate. And don't forget to tidy up the area around your dock and shoreline, too. If you need help, there are people who will haul things away for you for a fee. It's well worth it; buyers want to see a cottage in an unspoiled natural surrounding, not worry about cleaning up a messy lot.

  • Clean. Does the cottage smell like smoke? Dog hair everywhere? Beer empties on the kitchen floor? Dishes in the kitchen sink? You only get one chance to make a first impression, and these aren't good ones. Your cottage should be clean and tidy. We can recommend cleaning services in the area if you need help.

  • Consider simple cosmetic improvements. That old, dark, fake-wood panelling may have been cheap chic in the early 1970's. It has been out of style ever since. Consider painting it a light off-white or mushroom colour; it can do wonders to brighten up the cottage. Also, consider getting rid of heavy, old, musty curtains, and replacing them with clean, inexpensive mini blinds or new lighter curtains (hint: a certain popular Scandinavian furniture store is a good place to start). If you're handy, laminate flooring is a quick, inexpensive and great-looking replacement for old, worn carpet and peeling linoleum.

  • Have your septic system pumped. Generally speaking, septic systems should be pumped out at least once every three to five years. The cost is minimal, usually less than $150. If you haven't had your system pumped recently, you should consider doing so before listing the cottage. This shows that you're looking after your septic, and may also help to head off any potential problems that the septic pumper might see. Keep your receipt as proof that you had the system pumped.

  • Test your well water. If you have a drilled well, you should test your water regularly for potability. The local Haliburton Health Unit provides free water testing. Pick up a test bottle at their office, follow the directions, and return the sample to the Health Unit for testing. Virtually every buyer (and their lender) will require a potability test from a drilled well, so be pro-active and test your water in advance.

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Once your cottage is ship-shape, make sure your paperwork is in order too! Buyers and their Realtors will ask to see certain documents, and having them on hand and readily available will help to make your property more attractive. Your Realtor will need copies of the following documents, if you have them:

  • Deed for the property - If you do not have a copy of your deed, we can obtain one from the local Land Registry office.
  • Property surveys, sketches or plans - Any and all of these that you have in your possession are helpful.
  • Septic Use Permit - When your septic was installed, a site inspection report and use permit should have been issued by the local health authority. If you do not have a copy of this, we can help you to obtain one.
  • Water Well Record - If you have a drilled well, you may have a copy of this form with details about the well.
  • Water Potability Result - If you have a drilled well, you should test your water, and provide a copy of the test result. If the water is not potable, you should take steps to remedy this. We can recommend professionals who can help.
  • Municipal Property Tax Bill - Your Realtor will need a copy of this in order to complete required tax information on the listing data sheet.

In order to list your cottage, your Realtor will need you to sign several forms, including a brochure explaining the various roles that Realtors can have in a transaction, and the listing agreement itself. Samples of both of these documents, as well as a sample Agreement of Purchase and Sale, are available on our forms page. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with them.

As of June 2008, all buyers and sellers must now provide identification, such as a driver's license or passport. There is more information about this new law on our forms page.

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Now that you're all organized, you're ready to start allowing your property to be shown. The essential thing to remember here is that it should be easy for Realtors to show your property, and enjoyable and pleasant for their buyers. Properties that are difficult to show do not sell. If you rent your property out for part of the season, don't put it on the market until the rental period is over.

Make sure that pathways and driveways are accessible and clear of debris. In the winter, make sure that driveways and parking areas are plowed and walkways are clear.

If you are going to be at your property on the day of a showing appointment, consider taking a walk or running an errand during the showing. Buyers like to be relaxed while they look, and having the seller present may make them uncomfortable. Also, if you have pets, make sure they are safely kept out of the way, both for the pets' sake and for the buyers.

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Completing your sale

You will need the services of a lawyer to handle the completion of your sale. Your lawyer will communicate with the buyer's lawyer and ensure the closing takes place in an orderly and timely fashion. When you list your property, you should let your lawyer know. He or she may wish to review a purchase agreement before you accept it. If that's the case, make sure your Realtor knows this in advance so that this can be co-ordinated. If you don't already have a lawyer, we can provide you with contact information for Haliburton-area lawyers who regularly act for sellers in real estate transactions.

Purchase agreements often have provisions for the buyer to have one or more final visitations to the property prior to the closing, in order to verify that the property is in the condition they expected it. These visitations are normally arranged at times that are mutually agreeable to both the buyer and seller.

We hope that this information has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or wish to discuss getting your property ready for the market, please let us know!

Susanne James, B.A.A., Sales Representative
Andy Mosher, B.A., Broker
Century 21 Granite Realty Group, Inc., Brokerage

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